Asylum claims by irregular migrants increased in July after 2 months of decline

The number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada outside regular ports of entry went up in July after two months of decline. New federal data shows a total of 1,634 migrants were apprehended by RCMP between official U.S.-Canada land border crossings last month.

Spike comes after 2 months of decline and government efforts to dissuade illegal border crossings

More than 25,000 asylum seekers crossed into Quebec from the U.S. in 2017, according to the Quebec government. So far this year, a total of 12,378 individuals have filed asylum claims after entering Canada illegally. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

The number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada outside regular ports of entry went up in July after two months of decline. 

Newly published federal data shows a total of 1,634 migrants were apprehended by RCMP between official U.S.-Canada land border crossings last month.

That's 371 more than in June.

The numbers had been slowly decreasing since May — a downward trend the federal government had attributed to its outreach efforts as it continues to try to send the message that crossing the Canada-U.S. border somewhere other than an official port of entry is not a free ticket into Canada.

Despite last month's increase, the monthly totals are still lower than those in March and April and represent half the number of people who arrived in July of last year.

"While these (latest) numbers are promising, Canadians expect all levels of government to work together to live up to our international and humanitarian obligations," said Mathieu Genest, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Most irregular migrants are from Nigeria

The issue of irregular migrants has been an ongoing headache for the Trudeau government, with concerns being raised by officials in Quebec and Ontario about millions of dollars in unanticipated costs incurred from the vast majority of asylum seekers seeking housing, social assistance and schooling in Montreal and Toronto as they await the outcome of their refugee claims.

So-called irregular migrants are those who cross illegally into Canada from the U.S. across the land border but not at an official port of entry.

Ottawa has responded to the influx with an increase in spending of $173 million for improved border security, temporary housing and to help address a major backlog in refugee claims processing at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Genest said further efforts are underway to encourage some asylum seekers to settle in towns and cities outside of Montreal and Toronto.

"Our plan is to have a triage system in place in the coming weeks to allow us to better manage the flow of asylum seekers to different municipalities," he said.

The surge in irregular migrants to Canada began in 2017, shortly after the United States announced plans to withdraw temporary protected status for individuals living in the U.S. from certain countries, including Haiti and El Salvador.

Last year, the majority of irregular migrants to Canada were originally from Haiti, but this year the majority are Nigerian, with many arriving in Canada from the U.S. after obtaining U.S. travel visas.

So far this year, a total of 12,378 individuals have filed asylum claims after entering Canada illegally.

With files from CBC News

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